1:30 PM, 28th February, 1999
In that surreal movieland somewhere between the '60s and '90s, a madman plots. John Steed, an agent of The Ministry, is sent to investigate a Dr Emma Peel, who is recorded on video apparently breaking into her own research project. Of course, Dr Peel is totally unaware of this, and the duo set out to discover who the madman is who is creating freak weather patterns at whim, who employs a woman who is Dr Peel's double and who is in control of a lot more of this whole teddy bear's picnic than is apparent at first glance.
Set in those heady days when spies didn't get mussed, no matter what they had just done; the days when a villain would sit down with you and reveal his plans over a friendly cup of tea with nary a laser-advancing-across-a-table in sight, The Avengers doesn't quite capture the spirit of the TV series on which it is based. Some of the scenes seem to be present only to display a particular facet of the series, without working it into a cogent whole. Even the occasional leather catsuit can't turn this film into the masterpiece of style and class that it should have been.
3:00 PM, 28th February, 1999
Psychologist Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman) is flown to the middle of the Pacific Ocean by the Navy. Surrounded by secrecy, he is expecting to investigate a plane crash site. This is no ordinary crash site; the Navy has found a spaceship buried for almost 300 years on the ocean floor. They have put together a team of experts based on the recommendations of a report written by Goodman some years previously (people get research grants for this?). The rest of the team consists of a mathematician (Samuel L. Jackson), a biologist (Sharon Stone) and an astrophysicist (Liev Schreiber). After a long submarine descent, their investigation of the spacecraft begins but it's not long before they are trapped at the bottom of the sea, fighting for their lives.
Sphere was one of Michael Crichton's least satisfying novels to my mind and translation to film still leaves some big plot discrepancies. Several scenes of the film were re-edited and new footage shot after poor test screenings, which is usually not a good sign. The cast really does their best with the material and they make the film worth watching even in the drawn-out ending. It's not that Sphere is a bad film, but I think your average SF audience would be of the opinion that it's been done before and done better.